Stress. It’s the devil we don’t see—or is it? As we age, there’s no denying it. No matter how much makeup we wear to try to erase it, stress can’t help but leave its ugly mark, front and centre on your face. The result: You look older than you are.
We already know that the mind and body are connected so it’s no wonder that doctors have found a connection between how feel and how we look. Stress shows up in our skin tone, texture, elasticity, and over-all glow. Sure, we can do the ol’ self-tan thing or pile on the bronzer, but that’s just a temporary fix.
The fact remains that the routine stressors in our every day lives really impact how fast or slow we age. And under stress, we can appear up to a decade older than we are—unless, that is, we learn to manage it.
How do you know if that’s you?
10 WAYS STRESS SHOWS ON YOUR FACE
1. You have dark circles.
Stress results in blood flow to main organs plus capillaries under eyes are fragile and break under stress leaving your face looking sallow and tired. Dark circles seem more apparent.
The jury is still out on exactly how or if this is possible, but it appears that the constant flow of cortisol that goes along with chronic stress causes a dip in estrogen, one that mimics, on a smaller scale, the dip that occurs during menopause. Less estrogen means less collagen and less moisture. So, while estrogen levels may not drop enough to shut down your period, stress may make them dip enough to make your skin look dull and dry.
3. You notice more wrinkles.
Life’s stress due to divorce, death of loved one, job-loss, financial concerns; impacts our brain chemistry. When we feel sad or anxious, are crying or not sleeping well it’s common to see deeper lines around the middle of the eyes, forehead, under eye area and mouth.
4. You itch, flake and even have hives.
Stress leads to inflammation which may lead to rashes, rosacea, eczema flare ups and changes in skin moisture.
5. People ask if you’re feeling okay.
When the Starbucks barista or guy at the dry cleaners asks if you’re feeling okay, pay attention. These people may not know the details of your life but they know how you look because they see you quickly.
6. You’ve got under-eye bags.
Tomorrow’s to-do list can weigh on your mind, keeping you from getting enough beauty sleep. This can cause fluid to pool below your lower eyelid area, and what you end up with is a puffy mess in the a.m. Stomach sleepers, bad news: You can expect the puffiness of your under-eye bags to be even worse because of gravity.
7. Your jaw is heavy.
Grinding teeth and clenching of the jaw are common symptoms of stress. Unfortunately, these habits can cause the jaw muscles to work overtime. This can result not only in damaged teeth, but also a heavier than usual jawline, as the muscles become larger with the grinding action.
8. You’re losing hair.
Stress can cause sudden hair loss by literally flipping the switch on the hair follicle’s growth stage from an active to a resting phase. Once the follicle enters this resting phase prematurely, it stays there for about three months, after which time a large amount of hair will be shed. When you experience an overall shedding of hair, you must cast back a few months to find the trigger. Rest assured that in most women, this hair will grow back.
9. You’ve got adult acne.
Acne isn’t just for hormonally crazed teenagers. Many adults can’t seem to outgrow it because of stress hormones. What makes it worse is that tense people often can’t leave pimples alone. Squeezing, poking and picking at them becomes an almost obsessive way to release tension, but it also makes breakouts worse, exacerbating the inflammatory response, and you’re left feeling a bit more stressed. So no picking.
10. Hormonal Mood Swings
There is a lot of interaction between hormone physiology and mood that works both ways. Our mood can impact our physiology, and our physiology can influence the balance of our hormones. If stress can sit at the top of a cascade of events that lead to undesirable hormonal changes in the body (like those that trigger insomnia, insatiable hunger and weight gain, and collagen breakdown), then what we want to do is find ways to gain the upper hand on our stress level and ensure that we keep all those hormones in check.
HOW TO COMBAT STRESS ON YOUR FACE
The good news is that we can can get to the root cause of our stress and manage it. When you notice changes in your facial appearance, don’t scream.
Here’s what you can do instead:
- Take inventory of what is going on in your life and what may be stressing you out.
- Simple activities like sitting quietly for 10 minutes focusing on breathing, writing in a journal, exercising or taking a walk outside, reading, baking, painting, listening to music and reaching for an activity that takes focus off the stress is helpful.
- If you find yourself reverting back to the stressful issue consider therapy.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez provides neuropsychological, educational and developmental evaluations in her practice. She also specializes in post traumatic stress disorder, learning disabilities, autism, attention and memory problems, trauma and brain injury, abuse, childhood development and psychopathology.